Mbeki to lead Zimbabwe dialogue

A southern African summit calls for sanctions on Zimbabwe to be lifted.

    Regional leaders are caught between admiration and abhorrence towards Mugabe, centre [AFP]

    "The extraordinary summit appeals for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe," they said in a statement.

     

    Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, left the meeting early.

     

    He told Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent, that he was "very satisfied" with the "excellent meeting" that was convened.

     

    'No pressure'

     

    Kikwete earlier denied that southern African leaders would put pressure on Mugabe to step down next year in the wake of continued harassment of the country's opposition groups.

     

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    Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's leading opposition party, was hospitalised two weeks ago after being beaten while in police custody.

     

    On Wednesday, Zimbabwean police raided the headquarters of the party, increasing pressure on regional leaders.

     

    Kikwete told leaders attending the summit that their attendance was a sign of their commitment to regional peace and security.

     

    "Our region faces some daunting challenges... However complex and difficult some may appear, none of them is difficult to fix," he said before the summit got under way.

     

    Uncertainty

     

    Mutasa said the SADC delegates had been uncertain on how to best address the current issues in Zimbabwe.

     

    "Fellow African leaders, publicly at least, still regard Mugabe as a revolutionary hero," she said.

     

    "[But] the brutality of a Zimbabwe government crackdown on an opposition prayer rally two weeks ago shocked some [who attended] the summit."

     

    Zimbabwe is in a deep economic crisis, with an inflation rate of 1,730 per cent. Unemployment is running at 80 per cent of the working age population.

     

    Human Rights Watch, a New York-based human rights group, said: "The crisis is reaching a breaking point and it is likely to get a lot worse... There is so much fear in Zimbabwe, security agents are everywhere."

     

    Three SADC countries charged with dealing with Zimbabwe - Tanzania, Namibia and Angola - met behind closed doors late on Wednesday.

     

    Eye on Congo

     

    The SADC summit agenda also included recent developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

     

    Clashes last week between the military and militia loyal to Jean Pierre Bemba, former vice-president and ex-rebel chief, claimed up to 500 lives, according to the German ambassador in Kinshasa.

     

    Mbeki held talks with Joseph Kabila, his DR Congo counterpart, on Thursday before the main summit.

     

    Bemba has taken refuge at the South African embassy in Kinshasa and has been accused of high treason by Kabila's government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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